LOS ANGELES >> A major attraction for Matt Bomer to take on the role of Larry Trainor — also known as Negative Man — in the new DC Universe streaming service series “Doom Patrol” is that he’s a man who never shows his real face to the public. As ’60s all-American test pilot Trainor, he could not reveal he is gay. Then after a crash, he hides his disfigured face behind a layer of bandages as Negative Man.
“He’s this guy who is a golden boy on the outside but on the inside has always felt like a monster,” Bomer says. “He eventually becomes what he has always felt like he was on the inside. He needs to find a way to accept all the parts of himself that were unacceptable in the past.”
Trainor is just one member of the Doom Patrol team, brought together by Niles “The Chief” Caulder (Timothy Dalton). The group also includes Cliff Steele/Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby) and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero). The thing that connects them is each suffered a horrible accident that gave them superhuman abilities while at the same time leaving them emotionally and physically scarred and disfigured. Following the mysterious disappearance of The Chief, the reluctant heroes are called to action by Cyborg (Joivan Wade).
Bomer read comic books while growing up in Texas, but he was more of a fan of mainstream DC characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It was the way the producers described the role as an all-American type character on the outside and on the inside one part Elephant Man and one part Montgomery Cliff that sold him on the project.
“Doom Patrol” presents Bomer with an interesting acting exercise. When Trainor is shown in scenes before the accident that changed him, Bomer plays the character on screen. Once the bandages go on, Bomer only provides Trainor’s voice, while Matthew Zuk takes care of the physical part of the performance.
The two actors get together anytime Bomer is on set to talk about the character, but most of the time Bomer records his lines and Zuk does the work in front of the cameras. The process has worked so far for Bomer.
“One of the challenges of the voice aspect of this is that it is a very reserved, internalized character whose pathos is very internal,” Bomer says. “It’s one thing to get to do a voice where you get to be big and more gregarious. It’s a trickier task to be more withholding and withdrawn.
“I really like both aspects of this because, to me, this is a character who at the beginning of the series hadn’t found his voice at all and over the course of the first season it is really about him finding that voice.”
Bomer’s had to find two very different voices. When The Doom Patrol was introduced in an episode of “Titans” (also on DC Universe), Trainor was energetic, enthusiastic and outgoing. He says the change to the more somber version was a result of how differently the directors approached the role.
Before taking on the role in “Doom Patrol,” Bomer was best known for playing Neal Caffrey on the cable series “White Collar” and for roles in “Normal Heart” and “Magic Mike II.” The Carnegie Mellon University graduate has always had a passion for theater appearing in “Spring Awakening” and “Grey Gardens.” Bomer was working on Broadway in “The Boys in the Band” when he got the call about “Doom Patrol.”
His work in “The Boys in the Band” helped him get ready to play Trainor. The play debuted in 1968 and deals with a group of gay men who have come together for a birthday party in New York City. It was a time when being gay was something hidden behind closed doors.
“I had been delving into the character eight times a week and I was in that headspace when I got the call,” Bomer says.
Bomer flew in from Atlanta, where the series is filmed, to do interviews to promote the series. He laughs and says that to him it feels like 4 a.m. and “the only place a person should be answering this many questions at 4 a.m. is in a police station.”
New episodes of “Doom Patrol” are available Fridays.
The DC Universe streaming service that launched in September has programming that also includes other original series plus animated programs and films from the DC’s catalogue. Future projects based on characters from DC Comics include “Swamp Thing” and “Stargirl.”